Wednesday, July 17, 2019

What Seek Ye?

When two of the disciples of John the Baptist heard the Savior speak, they followed Him.  We read, “Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?”  That powerful question is just as pertinent to us today and I believe the Savior would ask it to each of us: What are you looking for in life?  What do you really want?  What is your heart seeking most intently?  The Savior would later promise that when we seek we will find: “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7).  We have to decide, though, what it is that we will seek for the things of God or the things of the world.  The Savior urged His followers not to seek for that which the world seeks for: “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luke 12:29-31).  I believe here that the reference to what we eat and drink are a symbol generally to the things of the world that so many focus on.  In Matthew’s account He put it this way: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek)” (Matt. 6:31-32).  One of the great challenges of our lives is to not seek primarily for these things of the world but to seek Jesus and His kingdom first; then “all these things” that we have need of will be provided for us.       

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Through the Mist of Darkness

In the vision of the tree of life there are two journeys to the tree that are described.  The first is that of Lehi’s.  Lehi recounted “I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.”  But as Lehi followed this man he experienced some difficulties: “As I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me.”  Interestingly, he was somehow able to follow the man while at the same time being in darkness such that he didn’t know where he was.  He had enough light to know how to follow the heavenly messenger, but he still felt alone and unsure of where he was headed.  Finally, though, he reached the tree: “After I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof” (1 Nephi 8:5-10).  He persevered through the darkness to reach the heavenly destination. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Brother Saul

A discussion I listened to highlighted the gracious way in which Ananias received Saul shortly after the experience of Saul on the road to Damascus.  Ananias was a disciple at Damascus who was told by the Savior, “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.”  Ananias was understandably a little taken aback, knowing as he did the reputation of Saul as a persecutor of the Saints, and he said to the Lord, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.”  But with divine reassurance, he went forward with faith to meet Saul: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:11, 13, 17).  What this discussion I listened to highlighted was the fact that in his very first encounter with Saul, Ananias called him “Brother”.  Though Saul had been an ardent enemy to the Saints, Ananias was ready to immediately let all of that go and show his love and support for Saul as a brother in the gospel.  Saul was likely touched by this appellation, for when Paul recounted his story he repeated it: “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight” (Acts 22:12-13).  Ananias showed an incredible ability to immediately accept, love and bless Paul despite the fact that he was a former enemy. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

God Giveth the Increase

The apostle Paul wrote to the Saints at Corinth, “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:4-7).  Apparently the converts to the gospel were very attached to the missionaries who taught or baptized them, and there were divisions among them because of this.  I love the principle here that Paul wanted them to understand: it is God who converts and brings salvation to the people.  Missionaries and laborers in the vineyard may help to point people to the Savior—watering and planting—but it is He alone who is the Lord of the vineyard and brings to pass the salvation of men.  In our own efforts to minister and share the gospel we need not be concerned with how much “success” we have, for it is the Lord who gives the increase and not us.  Our job is to plant and water, to nourish and direct towards the sunlight—but the miracle of real growth is the Lord’s.    

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Lehi and Joseph

Lehi seems to have felt a strong connection with Joseph who was sold into Egypt.  When Lehi first obtained the brass plates, he immediately searched them and “found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine” (1 Nephi 5:14).  Though he discovered his whole genealogy, Joseph was the only one that Lehi focused upon, at least in Nephi’s summary: “And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record…. For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph” (1 Nephi 6:1-2).  On their journey Lehi named his sons Jacob and Joseph, surely thinking of Joseph and how he did “preserve his father, Jacob” in very difficult times.  As Lehi traveled in the wilderness and suffered because of the hardships there, he may have been inspired by the story of Joseph in Egypt who similarly left his home and struggled through great difficulty.  And just as Joseph was sent forth in order to preserve his family, Lehi knew that he was being sent forth to preserve his family from destruction at Jerusalem. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Crucify the Son of God Afresh

After Pilate released Jesus to be crucified, the Roman soldiers took the opportunity to mock the Savior.  We read, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head” (Matt. 27:27-30).  This was certainly cruel treatment and just one small piece of unimaginable suffering for the Savior during these last hours of His life.  Someone mentioned in our gospel doctrine class that they wouldn’t want to be these soldiers at the judgment day, and I certainly agree: I would not envy them as they stand next to the Savior and account for their actions in abusing Him.  And yet, someone else made the insightful comment that in fact it doesn’t matter that it was Jesus Himself they were persecuting.  No matter who it may have been that they mocked and beat—it would still have been as if they were hurting Him. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Do More Than Take Care of Today

In his recent general conference talk, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell spoke of the need to do more than simply offer physical service in our efforts to minister.  He said, “In modeling our ministering after Jesus Christ, it is important to remember that His efforts to love, lift, serve, and bless had a higher goal than meeting the immediate need. He clearly knew of their day-to-day needs and had compassion on their current suffering as He healed, fed, forgave, and taught. But He wanted to do more than take care of today. He wanted those around Him to follow Him, to know Him, and to reach their divine potential.”  He suggested that a minister is more than a friend, and quoting the ministering website, “Our efforts should be guided by the desire to help others achieve a deeper individual conversion and become more like the Savior.”  Surely service, as Ammon showed, is key to ministering and missionary work, but in and of itself it is not complete in doing what the Savior has asked us to do when on His errand.  To minister as He did we must invite others to come unto the Lord and be changed. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

They Did Watch Steadfastly

3 Nephi 1 contains a powerful story about the Nephites who were awaiting the sign of the birth of Christ.  Samuel the Lamanite who had made the prophecy had disappeared, and the prophet who had led them at the time of the prophecy, Nephi, had likewise “departed out of the land” and vanished (v3).  It had been about five years since the prophecy that in five years there would be “one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night” (Helaman 14:4).  Despite other prophecies being realized, “Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land” and many believed this one would not come to pass (Helaman 14:23).  Mormon recorded that as the righteous waited for the fulfillment of the prophecy, the wicked did “make a great uproar throughout the land” telling them that the words of Samuel were not going to be fulfilled (3 Nephi 1:7).  Not unlike today, the wicked spoke out loudly against the words of the prophets to try to cause embarrassment and shame among the believers. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

He Loved Them Unto the End

Recently we have struggled in getting our nine-year-old daughter to go to bed at night, mostly due to fears of being in her room without us.  After we spent an hour and a half last night doing many things to try to help her stay in her room and go to sleep, we finally gave up and headed for bed ourselves.  Shortly after I laid down and was only half awake I felt someone poke me in the side, and I was sure it was my daughter up yet again.  I impatiently swatted her hand away, mumbled something in frustration, and rolled back over, knowing that she would just lie down on my floor and go to sleep there.  But then I heard the door slam and looked over and saw that she was already on my floor sleeping—it had been my son who had come in to try and wake me.  I got up and went into his room to find him crying in his bed.  I finally got out of him that he just had wanted to come and tell me that he had finished the book he was reading because he was proud that he had read the whole thing that night.  My silent rebuke had scared him and sent him running.  I was ashamed and felt awful that I had “offend[ed] one of these little ones” when he had simply had been looking for some commendation from his father (Matt. 18:6).  I can of course blame my bad temperament on fatigue and being suddenly woken from being half asleep, but that’s not really the cause of my impatience.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man:  it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.  The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 164-165).        

Monday, July 8, 2019

Grow Their Faith Through Scriptures

In the most recent general conference, President Eyring spoke about creating a home where the Spirit of the Lord is and where love abides.  He referred to the Book of Mormon period when the people began to be wicked again in 4 Nephi and how pride, hatred, wickedness, and a weakening of faith crept in among the people.  He then related this to our day, saying, “Wise parents will be alert enough to notice those symptoms when they appear among their family members. They will, of course, be concerned. But they will know that the underlying cause is the influence of Satan trying to lead good people down a path to sin and thus to lose the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  He suggested a few things we might try when we see these signs in our own families: “You could have limited success by calling a child to repent, for instance, of pride. You might try persuading children to share what they have more generously. You could ask them to stop feeling they are better than someone else in the family.”  Trying to simply persuade our children to be less prideful or to share more or to stop being so selfish will indeed only have limited results.  Then President Eyring gave the real key: “But then you come to the symptom I described earlier as ‘They began to diminish in their faith in Jesus Christ.’ There is the key to leading your family to rise to that spiritual place you want for them—and for you to be there with them. As you help them grow in faith that Jesus Christ is their loving Redeemer, they will feel a desire to repent.”  Whatever sins we are trying to correct in our families, the key to helping them to repent and improve is help them grow their faith in Jesus Christ.  He summarized, “So building faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning of reversing spiritual decline in your family and in your home. That faith is more likely to bring repentance than your preaching against each symptom of spiritual decline.”